FROM THE TOWN ADMINISTRATOR’S DESK
At Monday night's Selectmen's meeting, March 4, the Board will host a public forum on possible improvements to three intersections as part of our Complete Streets efforts. The three intersections are School & Central/Union, Beach & Union, and Summer & Washington/Sea. A forth project that has received funding is the improvement of the sidewalk to Singing Beach. Final decisions regarding the intersection changes will likely be made later in April. The forum on Monday is to garner additional public input on preferred layouts.
Our Complete Streets efforts started two years ago when, after a public hearing, the Selectmen adopted a complete streets policy that aims to accommodate walkers, bikers, cars and trucks in the layout of our roads and sidewalks. An initial inventory of potential projects conducted by a citizen's task force aided by an engineering consultant provided by the state identified 18 improvements throughout town. The Selectmen choose to advance 8 of these for construction funding. Four projects where awarded funding - the three intersections noted and the sidewalk to the beach – with a construction grant of $242, 000 from the state.
Additional design work has been completed on these four projects. These layouts can be found on the Town's web site on the Complete Streets page. While we will not know for sure until we receive bids from contractors, it appears the initial cost estimates done by the state's consultant are quite low. Thus, we may only have funding at this time to do two of the four projects.
A key challenge is how to better accommodate pedestrians and bikers while still allowing for the efficient movement and parking of vehicles. All of the tentative designs for safer crosswalks involve eliminating some on-street parking. Part of this reason is that the state and federal standards that must be followed as a condition of the funding prohibits parking within the actual intersection. We currently violate this standard in the School/Central Street and the Union/Beach Street intersections. While there is parking available behind Town Hall, many prefer storefront parking.
There may be opportunities to add additional on- street parking to replace some of the spots removed. And further review of the initial design proposals might lead to scaled back options that have a smaller footprint. In reviewing two of the intersections – School/Central and Beach/Union – the Downtown Improvement Project committee recommended that additional review and vetting of new options be undertaken. The design for the Washington/Summer/Sea intersection and the wider sidewalk along the southern portion of Beach Street, was more favorably received though a thorough review is still needed. Taking statewide standards and adapting them to the unique aspects of our historic village is needed in order to maintain the special character of our village.
The goal is to reach consensus on the final design of the projects by the end of April with construction taking place this May and June per the deadline requirements of the state funding. Obviously we want to get the layouts right before proceeding thus if only one or two of the projects are ready, the Selectmen will not advance the others at this time.